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Diversity in ad agencies creeps up reveals IPA Survey

Levels of diversity within advertising agencies have shown mild improvements, however, more must be done to achieve parity. This is according to findings from the IPA’s annual Diversity Survey, published this week.


The Survey details the gender and salary split of individuals within agencies by seniority, as well as showing the percentage of BAME employees in agencies.

Key highlights:

o There has been a marginal increase in women in C-suite roles* year-on-year, from 30.3% in 2016 to 30.9% in 2017. Over the longer term, this has increased steadily from 23.3% in 2006, when the industry was first surveyed.

o In creative agencies, within the C-suite*, 30.4% of roles are occupied by females, while in media agencies, this figures stands at 31.8%.

o In 2017, 12.9% of individuals are from a BAME background. This is up marginally from 12.0% in 2016, however, looking at the longer term, these figures are double 2007 levels (6.1%).

o In creative agencies, 10.7% of employees are from a BAME background while in media agencies the percentage stands at 15.0%.

o Representation of individuals from a BAME background is highest at Junior level where it reaches 16.4%.

o Overall there are minor male/female salary differentials relative to the percentage of staff employed at the various grading levels covered by the survey.

Says Sarah Golding, IPA President and CEO of CHI&Partners: “At first glance the immediate reaction to these figures is that they aren’t where they should be. However, while the rise in diversity doesn’t appear extreme enough or fast enough, nor have we achieved parity at all levels, the actions we are now taking as an industry to improve diversity will inevitably begin to bear fruit and ensure this positive, long-term trajectory continues.

“On which note, it is welcome news that at the junior end of the business the numbers of women and those from BAME backgrounds are significantly higher, ensuring the funnel leading to the senior level is in good shape. However, it is imperative that we ensure this talent stays in the industry and climbs up to the top spots. And that once there, it stays there, which is something I am pleased to say the industry is addressing head-on, with a myriad of diversity initiatives, actions and behaviours.”

Among the agency initiatives, Grey has launched the industry-wide Diversity Taskforce; Engine has launched their Better With Balance initiative coupled with a manifesto of tangible actions to address diversity; whilst CHI has removed the requirement for CVs and personal details from its entry-level scheme SPARK, ensuring a completely level playing field for all applicants, whatever their educational or ethnic background.

In addition, IPA initiatives include its Advertising Unlocked nationwide careers day where over 70 agencies invited people from all walks of life into their agencies; the Creative Pioneers apprenticeship programme; the Women of Tomorrow Awards held in partnership with Campaign, alongside hosting advice and inspiration for agencies on its diversity hub. IPA President Sarah Golding is also representing the industry on the UN Women/Unilever Unstereotype Alliance.

Download the Survey from the IPA website. Additional tips for improving diversity are available on the IPA's diversity hub

A total of 128 survey responses were received out of 230 contacted - representing a 56% response rate. The agencies responding account for 85.8% of the employed base in IPA member agencies.

Response by agency size and type was as follows:

91 creative agencies (Representing 81.5% of the employed base)
o 57 with up to 200 employees.
o 34 with more than 200 employees (or a gross income in excess of £20m).
o 37 media agencies (Representing 92.5% of the employed base)
o 16 with up to 200 employees.
o 21 with more than 200 employees (or a gross income in excess of £20m).

The overall findings are aggregated from the 128 survey responses. Only those agencies with either staff of over 200 or with billings over £200m are specifically detailed within the Survey.

*C-suite roles include Chair/CEO/MD or Other Executive Management level positions.

Last updated 10/01/2018

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